Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Veganisteria 111

Deep Problem

If there was one thing that has seriously amazed me since becoming a vegan chef is the fact that I am still not connected to animals in their butchered form. I can't seem to have any sort of feeling when I see a beautiful filet of beef or a duck breast.
I should be disgusted; horrified ; put off by the vision of this dead piece of meat. But I am not!
A piece of meat which had previously breathed, seen, loved, cared, hoped and wished never to be sacrificed for its flesh. But I feel nothing- absolutely nothing.
I am ashamed of myself for this non feeling. Maybe it is going to come with time.
We shall see. It is hard to be vegan to the bone.


A trait that for we for sure do not share with animals is our aptitude of deniability.
For example when it comes to eating animals we are very good at convincing ourselves that it is not a big deal after all to take one life away for our own gustative pleasure.
Deep inside the brain of the stupidest man on this planet has appeared, one day,  the sad conclusion that it is obviously not right BUT we are unashamedly happy to convince ourselves otherwise.
Many other facette of our lives carry this trait, but I think it is the only one that systematically involves the death of a living creature.


It takes a lot to convince people that turning vegan is one of the best thing they would ever do in their life. A s a vegan it is funny how we feel the need to convince everyone to follow our path. It's a bit like when you discover that you are gay and attempt to convince your best friend that every single famous person on this planet is also gay. No better argument to make him "try" with you.
So I sometimes resort to this old trick of mine and start name dropping the biggest vegan superstars on this planet.
I am however careful to try to match who I feel they aspire to be like:
Leonardo di Caprio (he is not vegan but he could be); Grace Jones (she is so cool- she looks vegan to me); Will I Am ( I cooked his last Birthday meal so I know); Mike Tyson (Yeah! strong and hard headed); Ariana Grande (that's for my 10 years old daughter' friends) and the one that always make me cringe to think as a vegan: Barry White. Who doesn't want to be like Barry White?

Poster Boy for veganism:

                                                   Barry White 

Small Star (or under star; lousy star; rotten star)

The beauty of being part of a movement which you are persuaded is going to change the world for ever and for the better allows you to define people according to this. You have convinced yourself that vegans are on the right side of history. 
So let's put the persons we despise the most on the other side of the argument. 
It usually starts like that: do you imagine Donald Trump as a vegan? hahaha- impossible
The list goes on: Nigel Farrage; Jose Mourinho; the editorial team at The Daily Mail; Marine Le Pen; Katy Price; Gordon Ramsay...etc 
Wait ! was Hitler vegan? shit.....


Thursday, February 01, 2018

Journey to flavour

January 2018

It has been six months already and I haven't craved eating meat or fish at all. This is quite surprising as I really thought that I would be missing the texture, depth of flavour and overall satisfaction of a juicy piece of a medium-rare filet of beef.
It seems that, as my body doesn't have anymore animal fat, my sense of flavour is much more exacerbated. It always feels like I am constantly looking for strong, bold and usually new flavour- regardless of how hungry I am.
In the past, I would be really open to smell, flavour, scent...etc but this happened mostly when I was hungry. The minute I had fulfilled my need, I would just loose total excitement for flavours.

There hasn't been much other changes happening in my metabolism since turning vegan to be honest.
Well, almost:
I  have lost 11kg in the last 6 months. About 15% of my body weight, without stopping carbohydrate or alcohol. I am now the same weight as when I was 20. Very strange.
I have no more lower back pain and feel much more relaxed. One will say that it is probably all in my head- well wherever it comes from, I feel much better overall.
I know what you are thinking: I am trying to sell it to you, in a very easy-peasy way; where no pain or craving has been attached to my new diet.

Anyway, what's important is that I am now surviving without feeding myself with death.
No more- never, ever again. I swear.
Nothing has breathed, hoped, loved and died just to satisfy my hunger. How cool is that? Many people I have spoken to, think that I am a childish dreamer who is just having a classic midlife crisis; and they are probably right. But how good is the feeling that when you come to the conclusion that half way thru your life you will not digest any previously born species. If I ever get reincarnated as an animal, I hope it will plays in my favour.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Born Again

20th June 2017

Shock horror. I am living the last few days of a life which has come to the sad conclusion that it needs dramatic changes.
A kind of mild mid-life crisis: A crisis without the tattoos; the piercing; the Harley-Davidson; A new lover; crazy sex chem; hair transplant or hours at the gym.
I have my age symptoms- I suffer from the single most common question everyone spent its entire life wondering: Why am I here for?
Philosophy, religious studies or just not giving a damn about it have not helped me giving an ounce of answer to this fundamental question.
I have come to the conclusion that there is probably nothing worth living for, if it is just to wait for a normal death at the probable age of 83 (average frenchman)
I have done what I was supposed to do: given life (my kids) and love (as many people as possible hopefully) all good to go then? Not really. I need to repair something:
I have massively impacted the earth with my job as a chef and my relation with the other living creatures which I have ordered their deaths; which I have cooked their meat and which I am still selling their dead flesh for profit.
I am becoming Vegan.

Not for me but for them, the other living creatures I share the earth with.
I shall say that I have read Emeric Caron's Antispeciste book and it has had a major impact on me. Such an impact that I have promised myself to never ever again feed myself with anything which has lived and died. Life is too short for that.

24th June 2017

Today is my 44th birthday. I am giving birth to a new me.
1st morning:
I haven't eaten anything for more than 12 hours and have organised a home blood test with ....
I just want to check what my blood looks like on day 1 and compare it with a check in 3 month time.
I repeat, this is not a health decision BUT in case someone need different motives to give up eating dead animals, perhaps an healthier blood results might kind of convince them to start doing it.

Day one of my new diet:
Breakfast of 2 toasts without butter (bit strange) and some jam. Haven't had toast without butter for ever; seems like something is clearly missing. Never mind.
Tomato salad with toasted bread.
A full bowl of very cold caponata (which I made 3 days before) delicious, except for the celery which is undercooked and contrasts too much with the mushy aubergine.
A flat peach for dessert plus 3 biscuits (I have checked. No butter)
More tomatoes (I have prepared them in the morning- plenty of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and in the fridge). They have released their water and it has nicely mixed with the olive oil and vinegar. Dipping thick bread in this tomato juice is better than a lot of things I have recently eaten
I serve myself a small glass of Tavel rose and I don't even feel guilty about it. Vegan wine of course.
One more peach for pudding.

Boring. I need to do something about it.

1st July 2017

My blood result is back.
My LDL (Bad) Cholesterol is raised above the limit.
Cholesterol overall is also high- it has always been for the past 10 years actually. It has never gone down despite me trying to be as careful as possible.
My ALT is above normal; apparently my fatty liver is still there.
I am told to continue the quality of my diet and to exercise 3 times a week.
Exactly what I have been doing for years without any clear improvement in my blood result- especially my cholesterol one.
Lets see in 3 months if not eating dead animals and dairy has an impact.

24th July 2017

Despite my new diet, I do not feel any crave to go back to meat, fish or diary at all. The fact that I have just spent 2 weeks away in South of France might have helped.
Taboulé, wild rocket, grilled aubergines, fresh melon: a few of the starters I have had indulged on.
I spent a few mornings at Vintimille amazing' fruits and vegetables market. This would turn any reticent meat eater into a, at least, vegetarian. Serious. I have found the antidote to carnivorism.

1st August 2017

I crave chickpea cooked with a madras spicy mix. 
I am falling in love with Indian food and my taste bud have never been so open up. 
I don't miss meat or fish. Not even milk. 
Turning vegan is much easier than having to stop drinking wine .
I have also lost 5kg without having felt hungry. Strange. 

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

The mysterious secret dining rooms of 19th Century Paris

During my college years, I became very interested in the work of Guy de Maupassant; more than often his Parisian elite protagonists would meet in one of the many small private dining rooms that Parisian restaurants were made of at the end of the 19th Century. 

Maupassant had the art to describe those mysterious rooms, heavily decorated, filled with crystal and silver and where aspiring politicians would meet and seduce whoever they needed to progress amongst the Parisian elite. 

I had vivid images of those hidden rooms where waiters had to knock at their doors; where silver cloches were lifted; where boiseries were covered of picture frames made of different type and colours. 

So when I was planning to open my restaurant and first visited 21 Romilly street in Soho, it suddenly reminded me of Maupassant’s description. 

It was then very easy for me to decide as to how this restaurant should look like; how the rooms should be decorated of and how the overall image of the restaurant should be. 
Gauthier Soho is to me the most intimate and unique succession of small dining rooms in Soho. Somewhere Bel Ami would have felt at ease to persuade Newspaper editors and seduce their partners!

If you've never considered Gauthier Soho for your private event, do get in touch, even if you're only sketching up some ideas. 
Please call Samuel on 0207 494 3111 or email him at s.aiglon@gauthiersoho.co.uk.
We'd love to bring your plans to life.

Alexis Gauthier

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Wine knowledge for the rest of us - Dino Joannides

In a series of 'wine knowledge for the rest of us' interviews with industry friends and colleagues, we've asked Italian food expert and restaurant lover Dino Joannides to share a few tips based on his personal wine tastes.

Dino Joannides

There is an awful lot of wine out there. Where do you start when thinking about what to drink?

For me wine should always be drunk with food so what you are going to eat is the starting point. Old world wines are generally easier to match with food especially European food as generally they have less alcohol and more acidity.

People often talk about feeling daunted about huge extensive wine lists in restaurants. Any tips for making a decent choice in this situation?

It is a good idea to do some homework many wine lists are on restaurant web sites, booking sites or apps so you can view them before going for your meal.

As you’ve got older, what’s changed in your tastes?

I prefer to drink lighter more complex reds like great Burgundy now and more top German Rieslings , the latter are wonderful with spicier cuisines like Chinese, Thai, Malaysian and Indian.

Any wines you avoid?

I avoid very oaky Chardonnay and over extracted reds from both old and new world.

An often cited gripe for restaurant customers is feeling the sommelier is forcing his own agenda on the customer, regardless of the customer’s wishes. As a customer, how would you get round this?

If you do engage with a Sommelier it helps if you are clear about your preferences especially regarding how much you are willing to spend and the style of wine you like as well as what you will be eating - a good Sommelier should be able to take these points on board and hopefully provide you advice that will lead to a a great wine experience. 

Good wine service is one of the key factors in ensuring a customer considers returning over and over again.

You must have had some high points over the years and tasted some special bottles. Any particular stories?

I have been very fortunate to have sampled some really outstanding wines all over the world.  Special bottles include Chateau Latour 1961 ,Vieux Chateau Certan 2006, Corton Charlemagne Coche Dury 2005, Isola e Olena Cepparello 2007, Ridge Montebello 1998, Domaine Economou Oikonomoy, Sita 1999, Salon Cuvee "S' Clos Le Mesnil, Blanc de Blancs 1996.

Dino Joannides is Author of Italian food bible Semplice, and Director of wine assistant app Corkscrew - www.getcorkscrew.co.uk

Gauthier wines is offering a superb Italian baby Super Tuscan - Mirapiana Maremma Toscana 2014

Friday, April 07, 2017

Wine knowledge for the rest of us: Oisin Rogers

In a series of 'wine knowledge for the rest of us' interviews with industry friends and colleagues, we've asked legendary London landlord Oisin Rogers to share a few tips based on his personal wine tastes.

Image credit: Hot Dinners

GW: There is an awful lot of wine out there. Where do you start when thinking about what to drink?

O.R.: Although I do know a fair amount about wine I'll readily admit my knowledge is very far from extensive. There is so much to know before becoming any way competent in wine. For me though, as my palette is not amazing, wine is about stories, about memories of places I've been and dreams of where I'd like to go. When a friend or staff member takes me a bottle from their travels or I see a great bottle from a journey I've done, that's something I'll enjoy drinking, and I look out for bottles I've enjoyed before.

As you’ve got older, what’s changed in your tastes?

There's no doubt that exposure to great wine at work has affected everything I think about wine. Having the chance to taste top wines and vintages allows me to take a view on what I'll drink when I'm out or if I'm cooking at home. I enjoy full-bodied punchy reds a lot more than I used to and lots of adventures in Northern Italy , Austria and Spain has given me a love of the wines from those bits of Europe.

Any wines you avoid?

I avoid everything natural or orange. They all taste like cheap cider to me and I've witnessed a good friend unexpectedly jump over a wall and disappear after having had a feed of some vile orange artisan crap.

An often cited gripe for restaurant customers is feeling the sommelier is forcing his own agenda on the customer, regardless of the customer’s wishes. As a customer, how would you get round this?

Stick to your price point and have an idea what wine you'd like to drink with your food choice. If it's not on the list any decent somm should be able to suggest something similar. I've never been upsold to something I didn't want to pay for and suspect this is a myth

You must have had some high points over the years and tasted some special bottles. Any particular stories?

My friend Paul found a case of mixed 1960s wine in his father's garage. Among it was a 1968 chateau Latour. I was born in that year so he took it to the pub and opened it on my birthday. It was an extraordinary wine made all the more excellent by the generosity and fellowship of my friend.

I also love amarone, having visited Allegrini and Masi on my travels. It's hard to match it with food because it's so rich and distinctive. The unique grape-drying process is extraordinary. I like to have a bottle between main and cheese to share on special occasions.

Oisin Rogers is Landlord of The Guinea Grill, Mayfair.
From its wine list, Gauthier Wines is offering the superb Chateau de Parenchere Bordeaux Superieur.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Tripadvisor - The restaurant's best friend

Boo! Hiss! Everybody stand up and denounce the villain of the restaurant industry: Tripadvisor. It’s shit, right? All those pompous gits, whining and complaining, with their made-up reviews sabotaging the competition, what a bunch of wankers. Ban it! 
I’m the first to admit, Tripadvisor is a pain in the arse at the best of times. An unregulated, unelected free-for-all, lawless pit of self-important judgement, like the wall of graffiti in the school toilets, but written by people who read The Daily Express.
Sure, It has its fair share of idiots and bullshitters. There’s also the clichĂ©d vision of the typical Tripdavisor reviewer, very similar to mine, which is a cross between Nigel Farage and Howard and Hilda from Ever Decreasing Circles. The idea that anyone the least bit informed or cool would use Tripadvisor is a bit of a joke, or that’s how we all like to imagine. It’s also the root of all restaurant marketers’ problems, with the dreaded ‘one star review’ morning notification welcome less than a tequila hangover. 
But has anyone taken the time to look beyond the criticism, and analysed the real impact and influence of such a behemoth on this industry? 
My personal enthusiasm for the dreaded TA is well-known. Quite often I’ve stood up in restaurant marketing discussions and been the sole lonely voice making the case for everyone’s favourite pain in the arse. So I’m going to stick my head on the block and make the case: 
If you’re a restaurant, Tripadvisor has to be your friend.
One of the most interesting things is how quickly we’ve all adopted the online review as part of life, like they’ve always been there. TripAdvisor began its life in 2000. To get an idea of how early this was, Google only moved out of their garage the year before, and Facebook and twitter wouldn’t happen for 5 years. It was never intended to be about users’ opinions. 
Originally it was to focus on a mix of official words from guidebooks or critics reviews in newspapers and magazines. A helpful digital combination of all. So far so good, everything works fine, just like many other guides.
Then one day, someone added a little button for visitors to add their own reviews, famously the feature Amazon pioneered only a couple of years previously for books. 
Take-up went crazy. Website visits and registered users skyrocketed. Do you know what happened? People were more interested in the user opinion than the ‘professional’ opinion.
Basically: welcome to the world, the user-review.
As a restaurant marketer I’ve been trying to make sense of guest influence in restaurants for 20 years, and I don’t think I’m alone in believing the user review has been the single biggest game changer in restaurant marketing in that time.
What’s clear to me is this: People trust other people.
People trust people like themselves. It’s part of the opinion consensus, the internet or specifically Tripadvsor has simply provided a platform for this.
The old media has obviously been disparaging: you don’t have to look far to find journalists sneering at ‘hoi polloi’ and their basicness. See how they guffaw at Mr Smith and his good lady wife from Tunbridge Wells, the ‘opted for’/‘melt-in-the-mouth’ brigade. It’s the same snooty attitude which is heaped on ‘comment warriors’, the same ‘comment warriors’ who have driven arguably the biggest revolution in how media effectively earns money since the battle of Wapping in 1986.
But this self-satisfied sneering needs to be watched. AA Gill seems almost Luddite now when heard quoting ‘Citizen Journalism’ back in 2010.’ (00.23)
‘Would you trust a citizen dentist?’ he cries, chuckling smugly to himself (I love how he proudly puts journalists in the same bracket as the medical profession). His ‘leave it to the professionals’ point is a good one, and granted not simply taking about critics, but sadly this attitude all sounds a bit twentieth century now. 
Let’s start with the addressing the usual complaints about TA. To begin, we hear a lot about the ‘no control’ angle. Nothing we can do, no reasoning etc etc. What’s funny to me is how nobody has a problem when they get a nice review. Only when they get a bad one. So instead of thinking about the reason someone posted it, they moan about TA like it’s got something in for them. Like having a suggestions box, not liking the suggestions, so you shout at the box. And don’t start the ‘but that’s not public information’ argument. This is 2016. Transparency is King. 
Another argument frequently trotted out is, ‘if you have a complaint, you should make it at the time’. 
Well, call me British, but I’m not one of those people who likes to treat every commercial or hospitality experience as a live confrontation session for raising problems with service. I go out to enjoy myself. Nobody likes the complainer, not your friends, guests, colleagues or anyone else. The only people who complain in restaurants are frankly arrogant, self-entitled tossers who relish this pathetic bit of power they manage to uncomfortably ejaculate over some poor young server. No, normal people keep these things to themselves. 
Now that the restaurant industry has begun to realise the user review cannot be ignored, its time to think cleverly about the positives. TA is quite possible one of the industry’s best sources of feedback one could ever wish for. 
It was Gordon Gekko in ‘Wall Street’ who famously said ’the most valuable commodity I know of is information’. Well, feedback is your information. We all know it’s crucial, which is why every serious consumer business in the world invests so heavily in it. Tripadvisor gives people the best chance to let you know what you are doing right or wrong, and that information should be relished. Ignore it at your peril.
Lastly, there is customer loyalty. Think about the process of leaving that review. The guest has paid their bill, then left, gone home, and then taken the quite boring and tedious process of entering their review. They really wanted to do this. Why? Quite honestly I don’t know myself. But they do. Good or bad (but usually good, it has to be said) the urge to share is there. If it is a bad point they want to share, we have to consider why they want to do this. Spite? Pure vengeance? I’m not sure. I like to think it’s mostly a cry for help. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve contacted guests after they’ve left bad reviews, reasoned with them, killed problems with kindness, and they’ve become our best ambassadors and most loyal regulars to this day. People feel let down, unloved perhaps. TA gives you the chance to love them again.
I believe what we have to accept is Tripadvisor and the user review is here to stay. The way I see it is its all part of an evolving situation. Tripadvisor is not perfect, but if you are looking for pure unbiased guidance then neither is the highly corrupt PR/Journalist self-preserving model that has existed in old-world press and reviews for years. People are not stupid, they don’t go to Tripdavisor for the last word, it just provides another opinion. 
And maybe they just love reading the hilarious home-made reviews about Nazi Maitre d’s and dirty loos in hotels.

Veganisteria 111

Deep Problem If there was one thing that has seriously amazed me since becoming a vegan chef is the fact that I am still not connected ...